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Our Feathered Friends

This post part of the Homestead Barn Hop #163

We have been so blessed to be able to live where we do.  My in-laws have a double-wide on the back of their property that they let us rent out from them for dirt cheap, which has really helped us with our financial goals while allowing me to stay home with our boys.  Ma-in-law plants a huge garden every year, and always allows me to plant whatever I want.  She also plants extra for us, too, in exchange for help weeding and harvesting.  My in-laws also raise beef and eggs, and they have been generous in allowing us to raise a beef any time we have been interested in doing so.  This year, through a series of very unfortunate events, we had to replace some of their laying hens. Since we would be raising a new flock (the rest of the hens are ready to "retire"), we asked if they would mind if we doubled the small flock and split the cost of feed and then shared the eggs.  We also asked them if we could raise some broiler chickens at the same time.  Guess what? They said yes!!

When I picked up the chicks at the hatchery, the plan was to buy 25 Cornish Cross as our broilers.  That is what my mother-in-law has always raised, and since I am new at this, I was going to just trust her knowledge.  When I got to the hatchery, they had only a few Cornish Cross left, and they had another breed on sale because they were already a week and a half old, and they needed to make room for a new hatching.  They were normally a dollar more each than the cornish, but were on sale for .50 off.  They are called Red Rangers, and I was pretty impressed with what the hatchery told me about them.  They said they were hardier than the Cornish Cross, and they can support their own weight so they are less likely to die from piling. I figured since they were already a week old, it was worth the extra money because they were less likely to get sick, and the price difference pretty much equaled the cost in feed for that week and a half.  So I took the jump and bought them.  I couldn't be happier.  Even my mother-in-law is impressed with them.  They are four and half weeks old and already half the size of the full-grown laying hens, almost all feathered out, and their legs are HUGE, which I hope foreshadows a large, meaty broiler. We switched them over to a meat bird feed a little over a week ago, and they have really taken off in growth since.  They have been pretty comfortable around us, and are very curious.  If I hold still in the coop, they'll come up and start inspecting my shoes.

We bought a dozen pullets (the hatchery threw in a few extra just in case). Half are Barred Rocks, the other half are Australorps.  They have been pretty skittish around people, which makes me sad, but they are growing really well.  They're wings are pretty much all feathered out, and some of their tail feathers have come in as well. These were only a day or two old when we picked them up, and they are growing at about half the rate of their meat-bird counterparts in the next room. At three weeks old, they are only now about as big as the Red Rangers were when we picked them up.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to get the pullets/hens to be less afraid of me?  I was kind of hoping to have them act a bit more like the Red Rangers have been so that egg gathering and any chicken "wrangling" will be easier down the road.  Any thoughts?


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